You know, through the texts which you write and those which I write, and through the attention they bring to bear on one another, if I may say so, what difference and what proximity comprises their ‘dialogue’. And this too is ‘fraternal’. And more is said in this exchange than we can hope to get into a letter. More in this exchange and in our day-to-day work : as far as I’m concerned, in everything I do your thinking is in a certain way present. It is doubtless diverted from its course, in some way, but it is necessary. Sometimes contested, as you know, but in some way necessary at the very time thinking breaks in. Without being able to explain it here, I’d say that for two or three years, through a certain movement that ‘Violence and metaphysics’ does not yet show, I have felt, in another way, both closer to you and further away.
Letter to Emmanuel Levinas
6 June 1967
in Benoit Peeters
Derrida – A Biography (2010)
As if Derrida had always aimed at a trick, a magician’s diversion from what he was actually doing. As if Derrida’s love stories, the ‘everyday’ love stories of Derrida, from his mistresses to his flirtatious ego and his secret third son, were all illusions, a craftsman’s measured and calculated play with appearances and worldliness. As if this strong persona of Derrida, muscled with an extra layer of self-confidence and pretension, was only a self-preserving mechanism, a light-hearted pretext away from the real burning altar of his passions.
This kind of passions are neighbours of the soul : will and consciousness have close to no control over them. But great writers are those who strain their wrist till it gives in to true Intuition. When ideas and sensibilities speak for and through them.
Just like in this letter of Derrida to Emmanuel Levinas. Four years earlier, thirty-two year old Derrida, fox-spirited, signed “Violence and Metaphysics”, a brick of subtle appraisals and deeply critical responses to a lifetime’s body of patient meditations, by his Jewish elder. Here it is : the unbound energy of spirit — pitiless even in its reverence.
Levinas had expressed gratitude to Derrida for what was certainly a rare feat of intimate engagement with his quasi-mystic prose. But it was also one that displayed the depth of an unbridgeable drift at the heart of its praise ; but also, inversely, the persistence of the spur notwithstanding criticality.
Impossible love : impossibility of forgetting and living away, in denial, from an encounter that came within, and stayed, and departed simultaneously.
Totality and Infinity (1961)
Otherwise Than Being (1974)
Of Grammatology (1967)
Spectres of Marx (1993)
This is Derrida’s philosophy, his philosophy of philosophy, his philo-sophia, love of wisdom, practice of philosophy becoming praise of love and philosophy of love. This is love, and philosophy, after Derrida. Impossible love : impossibility of the full merger with the Other, of the complete agreement with anyone else’s divine inspirations. The ultimate, eternal solitude of the self. But impossible love, too : impossibility of forgetting and living away, in denial, from an encounter that came within, and stayed, and departed simultaneously.
Derrida’s Cupid is a dictionary and his arrows are the rare echoing minds of a populated cosmos. “And more is said in this exchange than we can hope to get into a letter.” Forget speech and conversations, even courteous and aristocratic epistolary indulgences. This kind of love calls for the battlefield, a geopolitics of spirited armies, the coded sieges of conversing texts — love as a necessary war, war of love, love of war : indeed, indeed, the responsible worship of a new kind of metaphysics of violence.